Man travels 20 km into Lebanon before he is picked up

Lebanon says it captured American man suspected of infiltrating from Israel

Suspect identified as Colin Emery Doyle was spotted Tuesday in a Lebanese village, having apparently crossed the border through a hole in the fence

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

An American man, Colin Emery Doyle, whom Lebanon says it captured after he illegally crossed into the country through the security fence from Israel on January 15, 2019. (Hezbollah's Central Media)
An American man, Colin Emery Doyle, whom Lebanon says it captured after he illegally crossed into the country through the security fence from Israel on January 15, 2019. (Hezbollah's Central Media)

The Lebanese military on Thursday said it captured an American man suspected of entering Lebanon from Israel through a hole in the security fence earlier in the week.

The man, identified by Lebanon as Colin Emery Doyle, was being questioned by intelligence officers of the Lebanese Armed Forces, under the supervision of a judge. Lebanese media published conflicting reports about his mental health.

The United States Embassy in Beirut said it was aware of the reports and would provide Doyle with “all consular services possible.”

The Hezbollah terrorist group’s media department distributed a photograph of the suspect, showing a red-haired man who appears to be in his 30s standing in a clothing shop, where he was arrested.

“After continuous search operations a LAF intelligence patrol was able to find the American citizen ‘Colin Emery’ hiding in one of the alleys in the city of Tyre,” the Lebanese Armed Forces said in a statement.

A photograph of Doyle’s passport was also published in Lebanese media.

The coastal city of Tyre is located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border town of Aita al-Shaab, where he is believed to have entered Lebanon from Israel.

He was arrested while trying to purchase clothes, Lebanese media reported.

“He was arrested over suspicions of entering on 15/01/2019 from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Israel) to Lebanese territories. Investigation is underway with the competent justice department,” the LAF said.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was aware of the reports in Lebanese media and was looking into them.

The US Embassy said in a statement: “We’ve seen media reports of the arrest of a US citizen. We take our obligation to assist US citizens abroad seriously and stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services.”

The United Nations peacekeeping force UNIFIL, which often acts as a mediator between Israel and Lebanon as the two do not have formal ties, similarly said it was checking the reports, but stressed that it was a matter for the Lebanese authorities.

According to Israel’s Channel 13 news, Emery traveled to Israel from Vietnam.

On Tuesday afternoon, a man wearing military-style clothing was spotted in a Lebanese village, apparently after having crossed the security fence from Israel, Lebanese media reported.

The Israeli military at the time confirmed that soldiers had spotted a tear in the border fence and tracks indicating that someone had traveled from Israel into Lebanon.

Lebanese media had conflicting reports about what happened once the man was inside the country.

According to the al-Jadeed television station, the suspect was seen entering the village of Aita al-Shaab, near the border with Israel, wearing military attire and holding a box.

When residents approached him, he threw down the box and other papers, which had Hebrew writing on them, and ran away, the report said.

Another Lebanese outlet, Al Mayadeen, reported that a wallet was found with an American passport in it.

And the LBC news site reported that residents found a book in Hebrew and English and medical equipment.

The border with Lebanon has been especially tense in recent weeks, while the Israeli military was endeavoring to find and destroy attack tunnels it says the Hezbollah terror group had dug into Israel. On Sunday, the IDF declared that it had found all the tunnels leading into Israel from Lebanon.

Adam Rasgon and AP contributed to this report.

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